Bladder Cancer Treatment

We tailor treatment to the patient

At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we develop a treatment plan based on your individual needs and your particular type of bladder cancer. Our multidisciplinary team of bladder cancer specialists  ̶  medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, pathologists, radiologists  ̶  collaborates to tailor a treatment plan specifically suited to your needs.

Our bladder cancer specialists meet weekly at a tumor conference, where they discuss your care and compare it to nationally established guidelines. This multidisciplinary team of specialists creates and coordinates treatment strategies for each patient.

Bladder cancer types and staging

Bladder cancer usually begins in the lining of the bladder, but cancerous cells may spread into the muscular wall of the bladder. Invasive bladder cancer may spread to nearby or distant lymph nodes, other areas of the urinary system, organs in the pelvis or other organs in the body, such as the liver and lungs.

There are three types of bladder cancer and several types can occur simultaneously:

Carcinoma in situ (CIS) is a cancerous spot on the lining, often referred to as a flat tumor. The spot may appear normal or be red and inflamed.

Papillary tumors are stalk-like and protrude from the bladder lining. They grow into the bladder cavity, away from the bladder wall.

Sessile tumors appear flat against the bladder lining and are more likely to grow into the bladder wall.

Stages of bladder cancer

With bladder cancer, stage reflects the location of the tumor on or within the bladder’s inner lining:

  • T0: No tumor
  • Ta: Papillary tumor without invading bladder wall
  • TIS Carcinoma in situ (CIS) noninvasive flat high-grade
  • T1: Tumor invades connective tissue under the surface lining
  • T2: Tumor invades muscle layer
  • T3: Tumor penetrates bladder wall and invades the surrounding fat layer
  • T4: Tumor invades other organs

Treating bladder cancer

We provide the most advanced medical and surgical treatment options for bladder cancer patients. As the only National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center in the region, we offer the most advanced reconstructive surgical procedures to ensure we preserve your quality of life.

Surgery is part of the treatment for most bladder cancers. The type of surgery done depends on the extent of the cancer. It also depends on your choices based on the long-term side effects of some kinds of surgery.

Our team of bladder cancer specialists will develop a personalized treatment plan after determining the stage of your tumor, as well as other factors. These include tumor size, extent of disease, speed of tumor cell growth, and your overall health and preferences.

Transurethral resection of a bladder tumor

Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) is the first-line surgical treatment to diagnose, stage and treat visible bladder tumors. It is performed by visualizing the prostate through the urethra and removing tissue by electrocautery or sharp dissection. This is also considered the most effective treatment for benign prostate hyperplasia.

Cystectomy

When bladder cancer is invasive, all or part of the bladder may need to be surgically removed. With a partial cystectomy, the cancer along with part of the bladder wall is removed. With a radical cystectomy, the entire bladder and nearby lymph nodes are removed. In men, the prostate and seminal vesicles are also removed. In women, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix and a small part of the vagina are also removed. Typically, chemotherapy is given prior to performing a cystectomy.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy for bladder cancer may be given prior to surgery to shrink a tumor or following surgery to kill any cancer cells that may remain. Chemotherapy is given in different ways: Intravesical chemotherapy is used for bladder cancer that is only in the lining of the bladder (described above). Systemic chemotherapy may be administered in pill form or via injection into the vein, where it enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the body. Chemotherapy also benefits those who have radiation therapy for bladder cancer.

Radiation

Radiation can be part of bladder cancer treatment for early-stage tumors following surgery to remove part of the bladder. It may be the primary form of treatment for people with earlier-stage cancers who can’t have surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation is also integral when treating advanced cancers that have spread beyond the bladder, and it is often given along with chemotherapy to help the radiation work better.

Intravesical therapy

With intravesical therapy, patients receive an infusion of chemotherapy into the bladder through a pliable catheter that is inserted through the urethra. The chemotherapy remains in the bladder for up to two hours, as it interacts with the cells lining the inside of the bladder. The procedure is performed after TURBT, with a goal of killing any remaining cancer cells.

Immunotherapy

Bacillus Calmette-Guerin is a form of immunotherapy we can use to treat some forms of bladder cancer. Immunotherapy works by encouraging the immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells. Following surgery to remove the cancer, this treatment can help prevent the cancer from returning. We may also use BCG as a type of intravesical immunotherapy to treat some early forms of bladder cancer. Intravesical means that the treatment specifically targets the bladder.


Clinical trials

We encourage our patients to take part in clinical research trials. Many of these studies are initiated by our own bladder cancer investigators, who design and implement the research as we work to provide the most advanced bladder cancer care. Through these trials, we evaluate potential new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating bladder cancer.

To make an appointment
Call: 913-588-1227
Toll free: 844-323-1227

Referring physicians
Call: 913-588-5862
Toll free: 877-588-5862